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A Village Offers Hope To Rwandan AIDS Patients

By KJ Mullins     Jun 16, 2007 in Health
For the people of Rwanda you don't have to ask if a pandemic is possible. They live with one every day. Africa as a whole has at least 25 million victims. Rwanda is on to something though and it's reducing their numbers.
The small African country has set out to reduce the number of new infections. The country hosted 1,500 delegates this week to an HIV/AIDS summit. Education and prevention is the key to making the numbers reduce even further. Practical solutions for those who suffer from the disease also is key in helping stop it in its tracks.
One way Rwanda has been working on this is by placing former sex workers in villages and teaching them other skills to get a wage. A World Bank-funded project in Muhanga is helping former prostitutes live a more rewarding life.
Beata Uwitije is one success story. The former sex worker now earns an income from handicrafts, farming and pig keeping. Her daughter Monique only 16 is also a former employee of the sex trade. Monique and her daughter live with Beata. The village also afforded her and her daughter access to life-saving antiretroviral drugs.
"Maybe I am the one to blame, maybe my daughter learned from me ... maybe I was a terrible example to my children," Uwitije says in a faint voice, tears forming in her eyes.
The ARV's have helped keep Beata healthy enough to make a living for her family. But it may not be a help for Monique.
"Don't ask me anything about her status," Uwitije says, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I don't want to say anything."
The summit is trying to get more information out for the residents of Africa. The experts know some simple ways to further reduce the spread of the disease but it's a matter of changing the thoughts of the people. Male circumcision can help reduce the risk of infection but it's a rare operation in Africa.
"If we do not act now to make HIV prevention work better, the queues for HIV treatment will just get longer and responding to AIDS will get more expensive and more difficult."
The continent faces a mixed pattern with east and west Africa showing remarkable declines in recent years, but southern Africa remains the epicentre of the pandemic.
"The reason behind this is circumcision," says David Wilson, senior monitoring and evaluation specialist at the World Bank.
Without preventing the disease though Africa will suffer even more than it is today. The young are being wiped out by the virus leaving orphans and the elderly behind to pick up the pieces.
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